May 26, 2015
A company that I had to google when when I first saw them on news.google.com is now a company I will never forget. Takata Corporation, is a company that makes safety supplies for millions of cars including seatbelts, airbags and car seats for children. Sometimes they are very good at what they do, last year they won an an X award for making the best car seat for kids. But this year and for a while now, the only reason people know what Takata Corporation does, is because airbags they make are being recalled in record numbers rolling up to 34 million. Now despite this, many people still have no idea what they do. Think about it, say this company’s name to anyone and see if they know what they do, or who all they work for… Even I don’t know what all manufacturers they work for. I keep checking back with Motor Trend whenever I think of a friend’s car and wonder if they might be on the recall list. The list is too long to memorize, full of just cars, manufactures,and years. Now image how many cars they make of each car on the list. This is nothing to shrug off, the number, of cars is astronomical. Millions of people are essentially driving around with a claymore strapped to their steering wheel. I keep thinking back to the quote from Fight Club the narrator first tells the audience (I would quote it but google does not like plagiarism) but basically it purports that when his company considers recall it first goes through a handy dandy little equation multiplying the number people on the road with the probability of the average court settlement. Now watching the movie that seemed like just an exaggeration, it was just something that the writer thought would be shocking enough to elicit a reaction The problem is though, I am starting to think it is exactly true. The first article I ever published was about the General motors recall last year. I remember 11 million people were riding around in a car that could randomly turn off if either the keys were heavy enough, or if the driver kneed the keys. The gravity of that is much less innocent it sounds, because if you car turns off in an automatic you have to come to a full stop and apply the brakes before you can even turn the car back on… until then you can barely steer and the brakes are very compromised. I can only imagine the panic that would consume a driver in a situation like that, not knowing what is going on trying to steer to no avail. Me, I am all about control when I am driving; if I don’t feel totally in control, I get squirrely. No computer could ever beat me, I proved that to Gran Turismo time and time again as a kid. Now I am not saying that computers can not drive. When Tesla beats Google and Apple in the electric chauffeur showdown (credit for coining-ship coming soon), I will be first in line to buy it. Then I will be the guy giggling my toches off watching season 12-13-ish of Archer, while all the peasants battle rush hour traffic… driving right behind the guy cruising in his Tesla. But I digress, the GM recall was a big deal, and the current recall is literally 3 times with a million in change. That is terrifying, and sobering. That many people are in genuine jeopardy and potentially unaware. The Takata Corporation recall is not quite as easy to trigger, but the scale of potential victims is much higher and the threat is more immediate when triggered. So people are going to their local dealers in droves trying to have the issue sorted out, but the demand is outweighing supply. The average wait is months. Even those who got in early are getting defective replacements. Which Takata argues is still better, because less humidity has gotten the chance to super charge the explosion. For those who don’t know, the problem stems from: Aluminum Nitrate, humidity, a faulty inflator, rapid growth, a Mexican Plant, production pressure, and ignored warnings. Aluminum Nitrate is a cheaper chemical than the previous standard, and allowed for everyone to pay less. When it was discovered it was a goldmine. But eventually reports of its volatility came rolling in; an explosion due to unsafe handling of Aluminum Nitrate in a Mexican factory was the first big clue. It was not until then that Takata Corporation headquarters in Tokyo, realized the urgency and initiated the first round of recalls. That’s when worker morale started to drop as production pressure increased with the growth of the company. A select few chose to ignore warnings while investigators giving those warnings neglected to report to HQ in Tokyo. Worse than anything the company did, was the system that created the environment. Without accountability you cannot hold anyone responsible. Even now with all the recalls the company is still doing well for itself, despite eternal waits for those with recalled vehicles. Treating all of Takata Corporation as one and merely fining it, is a mistake that has rolled over from when this has been a problem in the past, we cannot keep letting the people responsible get away with atrocities essentially scot-free.